Wednesday, January 05, 2005

And I'm the Queen of Sheba

I'm a big fan of conspiracy theories. Kevin and Jay can both back me up on this; I love nothing more than sitting around getting drunk, talking about the Free Masons, synchronistic mysteries of history and the Knights Templar. The whole idea of secret societies really feeds my imagination and pondering the various threads of these stories is like generating spontaneous fiction. But I don't take any of them seriously for a second.

So of course, I was intrigued when I heard that the current Grand Master of the Knights Templar has asked the Vatican for an oppology:

If there is something implausible in the idea that huge stretches of world history have been secretly coordinated from a market town just north of the M25 - well, maybe that's what they want you to think. The local newspaper, the Hertfordshire Mercury, certainly seems convinced: over the past few months it has published several intriguing stories quoting local Templars, who told its reporter of a secret network of tunnels under the town that was still in use by the order. "It reaches beyond well known central Hertford locations," one Templar said, "including the tourist office, the castle, Monsoon, Threshers, the post office, Bayley Hall, and the council offices." Treasures of "immense importance" were hidden there, it was claimed. Was the quest for the Holy Grail finally about to come to an end? More surprisingly still, was it about to come to an end underneath Monsoon on Market Place?

The man who has persuaded the Vatican to consider apologising, Tim Acheson, meets the Guardian in icy morning fog in Hertford, wearing smart pinstriped trousers and a thick winter overcoat. His midnight-blue sports car is parked nearby. "As you might expect," he says, setting the tone for the day, "there are going to be some things that I'm not able to discuss."

Acheson claims to trace his ancestry to a renowned Scottish Templar family of the same name, though he won't confirm his own role in the group. Might he just be a practical joker who managed to fool the Vatican? "That could well be, couldn't it?" he says, as we order coffee in a Hertford establishment closely modelled on All Bar One. "I can't tell you anything to prove that I'm not. I think that would be a perfectly reasonable theory."

There are a number of suspiciously sharp points to Grand Master Acheson's story and the article is full of mystery and shadowy hints about strange and important information coming to light very soon, but nothing concrete. But then, it is rather hard to keep your society secret if you're the Grand Master and you go blabbing about where you keep the Holy Grail to every reporter that comes knocking. But for those of us who enjoy a little mystery and a hint of intrigue, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks to David over at Boing Boing for the link.


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